We are, as artists constantly making observations and connections, and keeping records is so important  in order to refer to them at a future time.

Sometimes these connections create lucid thoughts and ideas that I literally have to rush to my journal to make a record of before, rather like waking from a dream, they begin to fade.

One such connection followed conversations with some friends last summer about the situation in Calais. I thought about how my use of garment making could work well in expressing my sense of concern for the human impact  of mass migration. I had made work about the childhood experiences of WWII evacuees a few years ago based on first hand descriptions. There are so many parallels with what we see unfolding in the media. The connections remained suspended until recently when my son went over to Calais to help build shelters for refugees.

My niece sent several bags of clothes with my son that her three year old son had grown out of, layers of perfectly intact and laundered trousers, coats, jumpers and shirts, which retained a tangible sense of my great nephew – gentle and loving, bright eyed and full of happy energy.  I felt a pang of sadness for my niece for letting go of this physical reminder of his early years, but it was a practical and generous act.

I considered the connections made as these clothes crossed the channel and passed from my son to volunteers in the distribution centre. This personal collection would be separated out and spread throughout the camp – or to camps in other countries – taking an essence of my great nephew with them. The recipient might sense the love and nurture embedded in the fibres and in this way goodwill and kindness would accompany these little clothes.

I have been working with a variety of pattern papers, layering them, aging them with petroleum jelly, drawing and stitching and then assembling pattern pieces into little coats.

I’m interested in creating something that appears to have be old and used –  it gives me the chance to tell a story perhaps – without words but with form and texture. The work expresses the idea of taking refuge – which  can be found in another state or country, in a distant town, a stranger’s home and even within the warm layers of a little coat.

This coat  reflects a sense of fragility and upheaval and its design is influenced by the light, highly waterproof Alaskan Parkas made from seal intestine – the epitome of resilience and resourcefulness. The garment is decorated with overlapping representations of traditional British and Syrian textile designs.

This work will be on show at The Brecon Women’s Festival exhibition at the Andrew Lamont Gallery, Brecon Theatre from 4th – 26th March  and to coincide with International Womens’ Day on Tuesday 8th March.


I have been away from the studio for six weeks with Christmas and New Year and straight back into a busy work schedule (part- time work at the Sidney Nolan Trust coordinating the learning programme).

Familiar feelings of frustration, a drop in confidence and uncertainty about the value of my work had well and truly settled in! Before the break I had been making huge works on canvas about transition and took full advantage of the luxury and freedom of working on this scale without concern for its commercial viability – I was just doing it for me. Whilst away from this work I began to doubt its value and thought it over indulgent. I turned my attention to thoughts of new work on a far smaller scale (and suitable for the shows I have coming up throughout the year).

I was resolute, that I would leave my large work.

I came back into the studio this morning (which is freezing and cluttered!) and sat down with it again  – it still excites me  – its talking about the pulse of life and how we are pushed through whole chunks of time by nature itself – vulnerable, confused, changed. So many things are out of our hands. The work has a strong energy to it and in truth I relish the thought of continuing to work on a large scale.

I then took time to look at the materials I’m planning to use for new work – fine pattern paper, fabric fragments, dried foliage, fragile aged manuscripts, raw canvas, wax crayon and paint. It feels like an exciting recipe to me. I reflected on elements that I had included in the larger works, old browning paper sealed to canvas with thick layers of paint, pushed through lines drawn in black wax crayon.

I realise I need not leave last years’ work behind – I will pull it through to the new year with me and allow elements to effect smaller pieces. I’m looking forward to bringing things together and to moving forward.


Butterflies are wonderfully beautiful and utterly intriguing . Mat Collishaw’s work with butterflies is stunning and takes my understanding of these creatures to a new level. I have just been to a major exhibition of his work at The New Art Gallery Walsall.

His large photographic images of butterflies create an altered sense of scale rendering the viewer far smaller than the insects themselves. I am in a temporary  landscape  where their wings outsize me and I can study their beauty as if looking through a microscope.

The butterflies have not been conventionally displayed for the photographs, wings outstretched in perfect symmetry as you might expect but rather squashed or crushed. I stood mesmerised by these beautiful images that captured life at its most perfect but ironically at the point of death. I  sensed sublime beauty and a violent end, scales scattered by the impact , head and thorax pulled apart.

The colours are just amazing – I drink them in. Then I remember my daughter telling me that butterflies scales don’t contain pigment. They are not colours as we usually experience them. Their iridescence provides the clue catching the light in bright flashes as they move – or as we move around them. The brilliant hues are structural colours that come about from the movement of light hitting the wing and light reflected from the wing. ( I may be way behind on discovering this so apologies if this is a commonly known fact -I was probably daydreaming in biology lessons the day we learnt about it!)

So back in the room – or rather gallery – with Mat Collishaws’ wonderful images. The huge array of dazzling colour in front of me is making me think about precisely the opposite – the absence of colour – well pigment to be precise. I can’t think of many more wonderful things than collections of colour  – exciting, stimulating. But remove colour and render things neutral and the subject of our attention becomes transformed, our perceptions changed.

I am currently making collages, using all kinds of materials that I have stored away  in the studio over the last few years. Some I have kept for   sentimental reasons – photographs, fragments of work. Pieces of fabric and found material too exciting to leave  ( including  a wonderful ball of ‘crimped’sheep’s wool caught up with vegetation). Other fragments purely functional – jay cloths and bubble-wrap.

After collaging fragments onto the canvas I gradually remove their patch-worked colours with layers of white emulsion in an act of quietening.

To reduce these fragments to a universal white seemed to take away individual characteristics, allowing for fragments to make connections, for new forms and associations to appear. And the absence of colour seems to bring it in to my close consideration – I’m not seeing it in the whitened fabrics but I’m imagining it – attempting to call it to mind for reference – “What was the colour of this delicate lace, strip of chiffon or fragment of paper, what did it relate to, what did it mean?”

Fragments of clothing take on powerful characteristics now stiffened and whitened with paint as if I can see them more clearly now. Just as Mat Collishaw’s images of butterflies once enlarged transformed them and brought a deeper understanding.

What we experience in our day to day lives is not so much the physical qualities of the external world as our perceptions of the things we encounter.

The whitened out textures and fragments are creating their own narrative and somehow the personal fragments, recently bereft of colour, become candidly revealing.

Mat Collishaw’s exhibition extends beyond the butterfly images encompassing themes of human beauty and terror and is truly inspiring.

His work All Things Fail is particularly powerful and should be experienced first hand!



In my last post I was excited to return to the studio to play with paint and canvas having recently visited the gallery of Edaurd Micus in Ibiza.

So its happening – a response to his work. I fumble with my intentions and processes – how to remain true to myself whilst allowing myself to be affected by Micus’ work.

I often feel chameleon-like as a multi-disciplinarian artist – so open to suggestion I find it hard to know where I stand creatively.

Being objective then what is it about his work that affects me?

An ability – working on any scale  – to create beautiful and serene work that is cut with a fine tension through his layering of fabric fragments. These fragments are  distorted  across his canvasses using monotone all over- coverage of paints – whites and greys. A quiet pulling, undoing, unraveling of threads takes place, sealed and controlled by the paint.

These fragments whilst held down by layers of paint are not restricted to the confines of the canvasses edge and attempt to slide away adding unexpected planes and dimensions to the rectangular format of the canvas. There is in this sense a release; movement.

Looking at his work at the end of my holiday with close friends encapsulated many of our conversations and provoked me to make work which referenced feelings of containment and freedom, happiness and regret.

The resulting experience has been liberating (in contrast to much of my recent work which has been about revisiting and holding onto the past).

I stuck to one my working processes – the outlining of the subject with a single charcoal line; in this case the subject was my own body.

Beyond this I allowed a freedom of response. I considered the addition of layers of fabric and dug out a range of things I have been collecting and storing in the studio  – as we do. Paper and fabric that I just couldn’t part with as well as functional cleaning and packing materials have found new purpose.

Without intention the fragments began to take on bodily properties as I used them to in-fill the outlines of the three figures which lay side by side. I worked with this – organs, tendons and bones appeared in bubble wrap, faded paper and strips of Jay cloth. The sense of experiencing life in physical and emotional terms through the body became a strong theme. So did the inter-linking of the three figures – the connectedness we have with other women.

I attempted to white-wash the textures concealing surface detail and colour to a great extent – but leaving ‘clues’ as to the materials below and their associations. This concealment felt like a form of control, a hemming in, a covering over – all of which have familiar emotional equivalents for myself and many other women.

I have a second canvas ready to go – outlines made and keen to receive texture and new meaning.


I have never had such a long holiday in my life – it was wonderful.

But I’m itching to get back to things. To be involved in regularly making work and reflecting allows for connecting with ones self and an extended break from this very personal experience feels unsettling.

But hey  – I’m back – complete with a bit of extra weight, interesting tan lines, numerous insect bites and many many fun and funny times to look back on!

I had several encounters with thought provoking objects whilst in Holland and Germany which very much link to my work with objects. In Ibiza I was fortunate to visit the beautiful gallery of the late Greman artist Eduard Micus (the gallery is run by his daughter)  – his monotone, textural paintings are incredibly expressive and have fired my desire to get back into the studio and play with paint and canvas.